By Raïssa Robles
The torture happened over 30 years ago but to this day, the victim still insisted on talking to me on condition that I won’t reveal his name.
Na-torture ka pala (you were tortured), I told the person whom I have known for the last 17 years. And yet he never mentioned he had been tortured even when the topic came up.
I had stumbled on his name while looking at old Martial Law documents.
You’d be surprised if I told you who he is but I really can’t reveal his name. You see, he told me, he doesn’t think the military has changed its ways. Despite all its pronouncements about treating dissidents differently, they still retain that old familiar feeling of hatred toward those they have branded “leftists”.
I’m somewhat paranoid. I don’t trust the military. If they crack down they will start with whom they know.
I will let my friend, whom I’ll call Fred, tell his story:
“On the first day, I was stripped down to my underwear. I was 120 pounds.”
His torturers were military officers Rodolfo Aguinaldo and Billy Bibit (now both dead).
“Aguinaldo’s arm was as big as my thigh. He rolled up a magazine. A body building magazine. He hit my balls with it repeatedly.”
“What’s your course,” Aguinaldo asked Fred.
“Zoology,” Fred replied.
“You know what will happen if I continue doing this,” Aguinaldo told Fred as he steadily slapped Fred’s balls with the rolled-up magazine.
Aquinaldo did not like it that Fred did not call him “Sir”.
Aguinaldo told him, “When you answer me, you say Sir.”
“Yes Sir,” Fred replied, mimicking an army private.
“I see, you’re sarcastic,” Aguinaldo said.
Fred said, “He grabbed my head with his right hand then punched my ear and temple repeatedly with his left.
“I will make you stupid,” Aguinaldo told him.
“It was good my skull didn’t crack because his arms were sooo big,” Fred said.
And fortunately, too, the torture didn’t last days.
Decades later, Fred happened to talk to Aguinaldo. “I wanted to tell him – you mauled me.”
But he didn’t. Fred said he was afraid that many in the military continue to be “incorrigible.”
Just imagine, there were at least 10,000 human rights victims who suffered torture like Fred did. We don’t know how many fared much worse. How many really died.
The late human rights lawyer Jose Diokno gives us a glimpse of the horror in human terms.
On September 21, 1978 – six years after Ferdinand Marcos imposed Martial Law to allegedly form a New Society – Senator Diokno unmasked what was really going on inside that New Society in a speech before Amnesty International in Cambridge, England.
It was Diokno’s ending that brought home to me the evilness of that perfumed nightmare that to this day Senator Bongbong Marcos, Governor Imee Marcos and Congresswoman Imelda Marcos are trying to deodorize with a show of windmills, elegant clothes and friendly smiles.
Diokno narrated this anecdote at the end of his speech:
I should close, but there is a memory locked in my heart that begs to be shared. It is the memory of a young couple, not yet in their thirties, whom I saw some months ago in a large hall that had been converted into a military courtroom, waiting for the case to be called, in which they stood accused with some 90 other young people.
I had met the young man before martial law. He was a university student – brilliant, articulate, involved. That day in the courtroom he sat in a rattan chair, almost motionless, staring blankly ahead, his mouth half open, totally oblivious to the people and the chatter around him. He had been detained under martial law, punished so repeatedly and so brutally and subjected to such a large dose of what the military call the truth serum, that his mind had cracked. He is confined, to this day, in the mental ward of a military hospital.
Behind him stood his wife, straight and proud, one hand lightly resting on the crown of his head, the other touching his shoulder, tenderly yet defiantly, ready to spring on anyone who might still wish to hurt her husband.
As I looked at the couple, I saw in them the face of every Filipino and I knew then that martial law could crush our bodies, it could break our minds but it could not conquer our spirit. It may silence our voice and seal our eyes but it cannot kill our hope nor obliterate our vision. We will struggle on, no matter how long it takes or what it costs, until we establish a just community of free men and women in our land, deciding together, working and striving together, singing and dancing together, laughing and loving together.
That is the ultimate lesson.
Because of Martial Law, we lost many of the best and the brightest of one entire generation.
Let us not lose more.